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Fairytale Dreams and Destinations
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To Cruise or Not to Cruise?

To Cruise or Not to Cruise?

Wednesday, September 8th, 2021

Deck 11 Forward on the Disney Dream

Deck 13 Forward on the Disney Dream

Disney Cruise Line has finally returned to the waters after a long and difficult 17 months.  Recently, I was invited to sail on a 3-Night Bahamian cruise aboard the Disney Dream with two stops at Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas.  While it’s amazing that cruising has returned, it hasn’t been able to do so without challenges.  Specifically, regarding the strict rules in place to step foot on board.  These rules depend on your vaccination status, where you are traveling from and what ports of call your ship is making.

To add some sheer “fun” to the mix, these rules are continuously changing.  For example, as a mixed dose recipient of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccine, I was able to step on board with proof of a negative PCR test taken between 5 days and 24 hours prior to my sailing.  But as I’m writing this, not only are Guest’s with mixed doses such as mine currently unable to sail to the Bahamas (including Disney’s Castaway Cay), but negative PCR tests for the unvaccinated must now take place no more than 3 days prior to sailing.

While what I’m about to suggest may sound like nothing more than a shameless plug, I assure you it’s not.  And that is how right now, it’s more important than ever to use a Travel Agent.  As per TICO (Travel Industry Council of Ontario), it is the responsibility your Travel Agent who works for a TICO registered Travel Agency to be on top of and advise you of these ever-evolving rules and changes, so that you don’t have to be!

Regardless of the rules at the time of your sailing, you will deal with Safe Passage before being able to board your Disney Cruise.  Safe Passage is a third-party company that Disney has hired to ensure the safety of all Guests before boarding the ships for the foreseeable future.  And from first-hand experience, I can confidently tell you that Disney couldn’t have found a company with nicer staff to take care of this for them.  They made the entire process so much easier than any of it sounds.  Staff was super friendly and just as excited as us when we were given the ‘clear to sail’ notice following our rapid COVID tests.

Mickey and Minnie on Castaway Cay

Mickey and Minnie on Castaway Cay

The onboard experience has understandably changed to reflect the world during its slow return to normal.  The biggest change is that masks are required at all indoor locations, except inside your stateroom or when actively eating or drinking.  Which was not at all a big deal, as I must wear a mask here at home anyhow.  And believe me, I would MUCH rather wear one on a Disney ship than at my local Walmart.  What’s nice, is that Cast Members will allow you to slip your mask off to take an indoor photo.

Next is to social distance yourself from other parties.  Luckily, Disney makes great effort to worry about this on your behalf.  As an example, Cast Members are on hand at theatres to seat you in every other row and to leave three seats between you and the next party.  And on Castaway Cay, you are asked not to move the beach chairs, as they have all been positioned to keep a minimum of 6 feet between you and other parties.

Little ones are not yet able to hug and obtain autographs from Disney characters.   Rest assured that they can still chat, interact, and take a selfie with so many characters onboard the ship, but hugs will have to wait just a little bit longer.

Deck 3 on the Disney Dream

Deck 3 on the Disney Dream

Currently the Small World Nursery (ages 6 months to 2 years) is not available.  Additionally, time for children (ages 3-12) to spend at the Oceaneers Club is limited in advance, but more time can be reserved (based on availability) once on board.

If you’ve never cruised with Disney before, I doubt you would know anything else has changed.  However, for those of you who have sailed with Disney in the past, there are some additional changes that you will more than likely recognize. For starters, there is no sail away party.  That being said – in true Disney fashion – they have created a cute little socially distanced welcome on-board celebration as a replacement.

There is no more mandatory muster drill.  Boo…that is so sad, right?  Because every Guest who’s muster station was outside LOVED waiting in the heat, standing too close to other people and listening to the message that repeats the phrase “in the unlikely event of an emergency” about a zillion times.  In case it wasn’t clear, that was my sarcastic voice.   Good riddance muster drills!

Instead once on board, you simply proceed to your designed Assembly Station and check in with the Cast Member before setting sail.  And…you’re DONE!  I’d like to file this change under ‘good ideas regardless of what’s happened in the last year that probably should stick around forever’.  Along with; no more self-serve for ice cream, at the soda station, during Cookies BBQ or for the food inside Cove Café.

View from our Verandah Stateroom

View from our Verandah Stateroom

Your Key to the World Cards will now be waiting for you on the fish extender outside of your stateroom door.  Speaking of your stateroom, during the closure, Disney Cruise Line upgraded the air filtration system in all staterooms onboard all four ships.  As a result, the air in your stateroom is no longer being filtered through the hallways or next door.

Mickey Waffles are not available at Cabana’s for breakfast.  What was odd is that I could opt for a breakfast at an à la carte style restaurant and order Mickey Waffles from the menu, so why weren’t they available at Cabanas?  I decided to inquire, and the reason is due to social distancing for Guests.  Now when you enter Cabanas, you are allocated to a station for food and each station offers the exact same items, so that they can easily spread Guests out.  To be fair to everyone on board – if one food station is unable to make a particular menu item – then that item is not an option at any of the other stations.  Simply put, not all stations have a Mickey waffle iron, so Cabanas is unable to offer them.  But rest assured that the à la carte style restaurants still do!

We didn’t have the Pirates IN the Caribbean Deck Party.  And, in order for Disney Cruise Line to still offer fireworks at sea while keeping with social distancing rules, they currently set off two sets of fireworks with the all-new fireworks show, Disney Ever After.  I personally preferred these fireworks.  And no matter how many times I witness it, there is something simply breathtaking about watching fireworks on a ship in the middle of the ocean.

Deck 4 on the Disney Dream

Deck 4 on the Disney Dream

If Disney Cruise Line took my advice (which they don’t, but IF they did), I would strongly recommend that they allow Guests to use their app before boarding.  While the app is very user friendly, I would have preferred to not waste time figuring out how to do things while at sea.  This criticism has nothing to do with current the rules in place, as Disney Cruise Line has had this app for years.  However, it is without a doubt needed a lot more now.  The app acts as your daily navigator, allows you to tip your drink servers, book a virtual queue to disembark the ship at Castaway Cay and much, much more.

I welcomed these changes, as not only do they allow me to sail safely, but I felt that some of them streamlined things I would normally wait for.  Which was FANTASTIC, because who doesn’t want more chill time on vacation?  But with all of these changes and new rules, was it still possible to enjoy the magic and relaxation of a Disney Cruise?  The answer for me is a resounding YES!

Chocolate soufflé at Palo

Chocolate soufflé at Palo

My return to the seas was as glorious as I had dreamt over the past year that it would be.  I’ve sailed many times with Disney, but I will never cherish any of those sailings quite like this one.

Without a doubt, the highlight of the cruise was sailing with an extremely low Guest capacity due to social distancing.  No wait for the AquaDuck, no need to make a beeline to a lounge chair at the pool and I could have swung a baseball bat and not hit anyone in the family pool.

I lost count of how many times I forgot to put my mask on before stepping outside of my stateroom.  Which was such a great thing because clearly the magic of Disney was able to whisk me away from the reality we live in, relax, and enjoy some much needed vacation time.

The Disney Dream Docked at Castaway Cay

The Disney Dream Docked at Castaway Cay

For the first time, I saw the Broadway style production of Beauty and the Beast (this live show is only performed on the Disney Dream).  I now know why it’s the only production at sea to have received an IAAPA award.  I enjoyed Jungle Cruise (Disney Cruise Line shows first run movies in their theatres), absorbed some much-needed vitamin sea and my scale tells me that I indulged in far too much good food.

Palo still has the most delicious chocolate soufflé you’ve ever tasted, walking on deck 4 is just as peaceful as ever and Castaway Cay still beacons you with its turquoise blue waters to explore it.

So I say take the cruise!  You won’t be sorry that you did.

– Christine Fiorelli

Everyone Needs a Fairytale.  Contact Fairytale Dreams & Destinations to Take Back the Magic Today!

(905) 857.3611 | 1.855.FDMAGIC
10 McEwan Drive West Unit 3 Bolton ON L7E 1H1
www.fairytaledestinations.com

 


Taking Back the Magic

Wednesday, September 1st, 2021

Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

For the first time in forever, I returned to The Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.  More specifically, I returned for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began.  When the Disney Parks opened back up with strict safety measures in place just a few months after COVID reared its ugly head, I claimed “there is no way I’m going to Walt Disney World wearing a mask.” I think back on that statement, and I can’t get over how very wrong I was.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would still be dealing with COVID, 17 months (and counting) after the fact.  And the reality is we still may have years to deal with it.  So, when I was offered the opportunity to visit the Walt Disney World Resort now, I jumped at the chance.  Given my line of work, I normally visit a Disney Destination three to four times per calendar year.   So, almost two years was far too long, and I was willing to follow the rules that were so very foreign to me last summer for the chance to re-visit and embrace the magic of Disney.  Mandatory indoor masks unless I’m actively eating or drinking?  OK!  No character hugs, although selfies are allowed?  SURE!  No self-serve buffet restaurants, but family style dining instead?  SIGN. ME. UP!

Sign in Frontierland inside the Magic Kingdom

I’ve always known that the state of Florida and the Walt Disney World Resort are not the same thing, nor do they follow the same rules.  But the fact that Walt Disney World it its very own entity has never been so clear to me as it was last week.

Guest safety always has been and always will be the number one priority of any Disney Destination, but I wasn’t sure what to expect or how safe I would feel.   About a week prior to my visit, I attended a Toronto Blue Jays baseball game.  My thinking was that the 15,000 tickets they sold for a venue that normally holds 50,000 would be spread out, but that was not at all the case.  I was seated beside people I didn’t know, who weren’t wearing masks, drinking beer and shouting at the umpires.  Which is fair because it’s a baseball game.  But I was still safer here than crossing the border, wasn’t I?  At least that’s what we have been led to believe.  As a result, I wasn’t expecting to feel safer in The Walt Disney World “bubble” then at The Sky Dome – sorry, I’m old – Rogers Centre, but I absolutely did.

The difference is that at Walt Disney World, the rules are both respected and enforced.  There is no such thing as mask exceptions.  If you can’t wear a mask, Disney’s response is ‘now is not the time for you to visit our theme parks’.  So, you won’t see masks hanging under anyone’s nose on the monorail, nor will you see anyone arguing about having to put a mask on like I witness all too often at my local grocery store.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Cleaning and sanitation at Walt Disney World always went above and beyond what I experience at a hotel, amusement park or similar on a regular day.  So impressed by the cleanliness during these times was not surprising.  Cast Members (Disney lingo for employees) were constantly wiping down high touch services, always had hand sanitizer on hand and housekeeping left our room for us in pristine condition, complete with sterilizing our remote control before being plastic wrapped.

I wanted to write about that picture perfect moment how on the first day, I walked into the Magic Kingdom, stood in the middle of Main Street, staring at the newly decorated Cinderella Castle and broke down and cried.  But that would be a lie.  The truth is, I got teary eyed when my plane lifted from the ground in Toronto, when we landed in Orlando, on Disney’s Magical Express, when we passed under the ‘welcome to Walt Disney World’ sign and then I finally broke down as soon as I stepped foot into the lobby of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.

Cinderella Castle itself was without a doubt, a sight for sore eyes.  Like so many, the past 17 months have been tough.  The castle represented normalcy and a reminder that things are beginning to get so much better.

Cinderella Castle

Without a doubt, the very best part of my visit was that it had the ability to take me away from the real world, allowed me to forget, enjoy and have fun – even for just a little while.   I will be back, as I can’t wait for another dose of the magic.  Only this time I know it won’t be nearly two years before I do so.

So, if you’re thinking of taking back the magic, I’m here to tell you that you won’t regret it.  The red head is still hanging out with the pirates, Mr. Tom Morrow has yet to answer his page and there is still room for one more happy haunt.

A Walt Disney World Vacation during COVID may force us to wear masks or keep us from hugging Elsa.  But the one thing it can’t take away is the magic.  It hasn’t gone anywhere.  In fact, I would argue that the magic is more predominant than ever.

–  Christine Fiorelli

Everyone Needs a Fairytale.  Contact Fairytale Dreams & Destinations to Take Back the Magic Today!

(905) 857.3611 | 1.855.FDMAGIC
10 McEwan Drive West Unit 3 Bolton ON L7E 1H1
www.fairytaledestinations.com


I’ve Got A Bad Feeling About This

Thursday, December 17th, 2020

A year ago today was the last time I was in the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.  Like so many others, COVID-19 cancelled my vacation plans this year, too.  Looking back fondly on my last stay – without a doubt – the highlight was getting to experience the then brand-new *E ticket attraction Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Granted, I’ve seen the movies, know most of the characters, but I am not at all what you would call a fan of the Star Wars franchise.  Heck, when people ask me the age-old question; Star Wars or Star Trek, my answer is Doctor Who.  But that doesn’t mean this attraction hasn’t quickly become one of the very best I’ve ever experienced.

The attraction is a combination of a walk-through, motion simulator, trackless dark ride, and drop ride system.  And it puts you right in the middle of an altercation between the Resistance and the First Order!

While the attraction’s complex ride system is unlike anything I have ever ridden, I immediately compared the overall experience to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey over at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade at the Universal Orlando Resort.  This was simply due to how incredibly believable everything was.  Not unlike how I always feel as though I’m actually riding a Nimbus 2000 through Hogwarts on Forbidden Journey, here I felt as though I actually escaped the wrath of Kylo Ren with the help of the Resistance.

WARNING: Spoilers ahead.  Do NOT continue reading if you have not yet experienced and wish to keep the details of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance a secret.

The story of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance (because every theme park attraction is only as good as it’s story) is that you were sent by the members of the Resistance to deliver plans to rebels on another planet in their fight against the First Order.  In order to deliver these plans, you must pass through four pre-show scenes (masked as waiting areas) before boarding the actual attraction vehicle.

The first pre-show has BB8 and Rey briefing you on your mission.  You then head outside to board a standing transport ship, where an animatronic pilot flies you through space.  You feel the ship moving as Resistance fighter pilots fly alongside you.  But of course, something goes wrong, and your ship is accidently captured.  The coolest effect here is that once your transport ship stops, the same outside door through which you entered the ship opens to reveal you are now inside the hangar of a First Order star destroyer.  While normally I would spend the next five minutes trying to figure out how they did that, I was too busy gawking at the level of detail inside the star destroyer.

The hangar is massive and is one of the best places in all of Walt Disney World to take a selfie.  Star Wars fans will want to stay here for as long as possible, given the fact that every single detail looks exactly as it does in the movies.  From the hangar, First Order officers lead you and your party into interrogation cells.

Without spoiling the very best parts, members of the Resistance begin an escape attempt.   But I assure you it’s not via a garbage shoot or trash compactor.  This is where the real fun begins.  You board your escape vehicle and are driven through the star destroyer, passing under AT-ATs , chased by Kylo Ren, and more.  The sets are massive, and the special effects are so over the top that I need to experience it a dozen more times just to take it all in.

Due to its insane popularity, Disney has implemented a virtual queue as the only means to experience Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.  Resulting in the fact that you cannot simply stand in line for it, nor is it available via Disney’s ** FastPass+ system.  Rest assured that prior to your Walt Disney World vacation, your Fairytale Dreams & Destinations’ Vacation Specialist will walk you through exactly how this virtual queue works in hopes of securing your spot to help the Resistance.

Star Wars fan or not, after experiencing this ground-breaking ride, it’s no surprise that a year after its opening, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance remains The Walt Disney World Resort’s most popular attraction.  And without a doubt, this designation will remain for many years to come.  Because after all, the Resistance will not be intimidated.

– Christine Fiorelli


Contact Fairytale Dreams & Destinations™ Inc. when you’re ready to join the Resistance!

(905) 857.3611 | 1.855.FDMAGIC
10 McEwan Drive West Unit 3 Bolton ON L7E 1H1
www.fairytaledestinations.com


* An E ticket (officially an E coupon) was a type of admission ticket
 used at both Disneyland and Magic Kingdom theme parks prior to 1982.  E ticket admitted Guests to the newest, most advanced, and/or popular rides and attractions.

** Disney’s FastPass+ service allows you to reserve access to select Walt Disney World theme park attractions, entertainment and Character Greetings in advance.  As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, at the time this article was written, Disney’s FastPass+ service was suspended in order to use additional queue space to control capacity at attractions and maintain physical distancing.  

 


Fairytale Field Report: Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge – Disneyland

Friday, May 31st, 2019

As with most born in the 1970s, I have fond childhood memories imitating Darth Vader’s wheezing breath, watching my sister’s obsession with Luke Skywalker and enjoying spoiler-free days before finding out who Luke’s father was.   But I would not call myself a fan of the franchise by any means and my knowledge of Star Wars lore is limited. I watched Star Wars because my sister did. So, as excited as I was to experience Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at the Disneyland Resort; I was also worried I wouldn’t truly understand or appreciate the amount of detail that the Disney Imagineers have put into it.

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Fairytale Dreams & Destinations
Fairytale Dreams & Destinations™ Inc. exclusively sells the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, Disneyland Resort in California, Disney Cruise Line, Adventures by Disney, Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort in South Carolina, Disney's Vero Beach Resort in Florida, Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Hawaii and the Universal, Orlando Resort.

Fairytale Dreams and Destinations™ Inc. is an Ontario Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO) authorized travel agency. TICO is an organization mandated by the Ontario Government to administer the Travel Industry Act, 2002 and an industry financed travel compensation fund. TICO Registration # 50010111
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